Sport by Sport Betting Breakdown: Part One

Sport by Sport Betting Breakdown: Part One

Ever wonder how well oddsmakers perform in each sport? The answer is… pretty damn good. However, each sport has provided slightly different value historically when it comes down to the basics.

Below are several tables breaking down winning percentages and return on investment (ROI) for the four major sports, college football and basketball, WNBA, and CFL. The data goes back through the 2005 season for all of the sports except the NFL, which goes back until 2003.

Generally speaking, you’d have somewhere between a -2% and -3% ROI if you were to blindly bet all of the sides and totals. That is why sportsbooks are quite successful businesses as a group (and why they should be legalized, regulated, taxed,etc.).

Here is the breakdown. The data goes through July 17th, 2017 and is graded using Pinnacle’s closing lines.

Moneyline Favorites

SportFavorite RecordUnitsROI
NCAAB30529-10759 (73.9%)-251.8-0.6%
NHL8356-5869 (58.7%)-222.5-1.6%
MLB17467-13045 (57.2%)-571.6-1.9%
NCAAF6271-2077 (75.1%)-182.8-2.2%
WNBA1784-826 (68.4%)-60.5-2.3%
NBA10531-4743 (68.9%)-374.8-2.5%
NFL2379-1179 (66.9%)-91.7-2.6%
CFL534-323-67.9-7.9%

Moneyline Dogs

SportDog RecordUnitsROI
CFL323-534 (37.7%)+59.97.0%
WNBA826-1784 (31.6%)-21.0-0.8%
MLB13045-17467 (42.8%)-460.5-1.5%
NHL5869-8356 (41.3%)-333.8-2.3%
NBA4743-10533 (31.0%)-414.8-2.7%
NFL1179-2379 (33.1%) -100.6-2.8%
NCAAF2079-6381 (24.6%)-764.3-9.0%
NCAAB10761-30677 (26.0%)-5421.7-13.1%

College basketball favorites…prettay, prettay, prettay good. College basketball dogs…not so hot. You’ll notice that the ROI for both MLB rows is only in the -1-2% range, but given the long season, books don’t need to make as much off of each game.

Have you ever heard the saying, “Dogs bark louder in Canada?” I hope not because I just made it up. It’s clear, though, that oddsmakers haven’t found how to properly assess moneylines for the Canadian Football League.

Often times, bettors won’t touch the moneyline for the NFL and NBA, which are considered spread sports. Many shy away because they feel taking a team on the moneyline is a losing proposition. You’ll find out in part two of this article that there really isn’t that much of a difference between moneylines and spreads. There are opportunities to take advantage of for both types of wagers, although most bettors will lose in the long run no matter what they bet on.

What if we look at bigger dogs and favorites? Will the returns greatly differ or be relatively the same?

Big Moneyline Favorites

Sport-200 or higher favsUnitsROI
NCAAB22125-4749 (82.3%)-57.7-0.2%
MLB1706-758 (69.2%)-19.1-0.8%
NFL 1437-473 (75.2%)-29.1-1.5%
NBA6834-1986 (77.5%)-173.3-2.0%
NCAAF4944-1107 (81.7%)-126.4-2.1%
NHL1356-612 (68.9%)-49.5-2.5%
WNBA1158-399 (74.4%)-58.9-3.8%
CFL292-120 (70.9%)-28.1-6.8%

Big Moneyline Dogs

Sport+200 or Higher DogsUnitsROI
CFL96-255 (27.4%)+27.7+7.9%
NHL383-881 (30.3%)+29.8+2.4%
WNBA325-1021 (24.1%)+22.9+1.7%
NBA1636-6156 (21.0%)-329.8-4.2%
NFL391-1241 (24.0%)-71.4-4.4%
MLB455-1113 (29.0%)-76.7-4.9%
NCAAF989-4818 (17.0%)-693.2-11.9%
NCAAB3979-20677 (16.1%)-4625.8-18.8%

Sometimes one may feel the urge to bet a big college dog on the moneyline when they see a juicy payout. Every week in both college football and basketball, there are a handful of teams with big upsets, so you may think that you’re bound to hit on some of them. However, the payouts on these massive mutts clearly aren’t big enough to make it worth your while. You’d need a copy of Gray’s Sports Almanac to hit on these consistently enough to profit long term.

The five most popular sports all lean heavily towards big favorites rather than big dogs. This is likely a combination of the dogs not winning enough and payouts that are too low. Square bettors taking huge moneyline favorites on a regular basis will see that those may be better than dogs, but still not profitable. Even big college favorites winning over 80% of the time haven’t been profitable in the long run.

I’m not surprised that the three leagues that books know the least about — the CFL, WNBA, and NHL — provide the best returns for dogs. These sports are a bit more unpredictable and also have the least amount of betting action. It honestly isn’t going to hurt the books’ bottom line all that much no matter what happens with those sports as long as they do well with the other five.

Check back tomorrow for part two, in which we will take a look at spreads and totals.

Want your own data to purge through? Download a historical database in Excel and start crunching the numbers!


Cosmo Kramer

He is a loathesome, offensive brute, yet I can't look away.

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